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Sunday, March 24, 2019



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Judge dismisses suit over firing

Judge dismisses suit over firing


A federal district judge in New Orleans has officially dismissed a civil suit against Lafourche Parish and Parish President Jimmy Cantrelle.

U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier dismissed the suit filed by former Parish Administrator Reggie Bagala earlier this month for failing to state a claim and provide enough evidence.

Bagala, and his attorney Jerri Smitko, alleged his First Amendments rights were violated when he was fired by Cantrelle in 2017. The lawsuit also claimed Cantrelle violated the Louisiana open meetings laws and the Louisiana Whistleblower Statute by firing Bagala after he refused to make calls to Parish Council members on Cantrelle’s behalf.

The case was dismissed with prejudice, meaning Bagala cannot re-file the suit based on the same claims.

Bagala declined to comment on the ruling Monday.

Bagala served as the parish administrator from September 2016 until he was fired by Cantrelle in January 2017. Within a week, he was hired by the council as legislative auditor.

The original complaint said Cantrelle violated Louisiana open meetings laws by having Bagala call Parish Council members about an insurance policy that was heading to a council vote. Bagala alleged Cantrelle threatened to discontinue health insurance for parish employees if the council did not approve a new group insurance plan.

Separate investigations were completed by former District Attorney Cam Morvant and the state ethics board. Neither resulted in any criminal or ethics charges.

The case was tentatively dismissed last year after oral arguments were heard May 16, but Barbier allowed Bagala to submit an amended complaint. According to this month’s judgement, the amended complaint was filed one day late and did not provide enough facts to support Bagala’s claims.

In court documents, Barbier also said Bagala’s complaint that his First Amendment rights were violated was dismissed because statements made as part of Bagala’s official duties as parish administrator are not protected under the First Amendment.

 

-- Daily Comet Staff Writer Julia Arenstam can be reached at 448-7636 or julia.arenstam@houmatoday.com. Follow her on Twitter at @JuliaArenstam.